Look for this one to be on the Oxygen channel before long: the suspect in a gruesome Hollywood murder with ties to everything from Mel Brooks to the Olympics is being called by some the “graphic novel murderer.” Director/author Blake Leibel was charged with murder, mayhem, aggravated mayhem and torture after the body of his girlfriend Iana Kasian was found in their apartment late last week. IN what sounds like a sickening crime scene, she has suffered blunt force trauma to her head and showed signs of torture. Her body had also been drained of blood, a detail horrifically reminiscent of Leibel’s graphic novel Syndrome, published in 2010 by Archaia, with a script by Daniel Quantz andR. J. Ryan and art by, of all people, Civil War II’s David Marquez.
The graphic novel explored the nature of evil, and included descriptions of sexual gratification from killing, as well as depicting a couple who were murdered and…drained of their blood.
It’s but a single detail in a case that should fuel tabloids for a while. THR has some insider information, including descriptions of Leibel as perhaps a bit odd, but harmless until about a year ago, when he deserted his wife two weeks before she gave birth to their second child. Around that time he began dating two other women, including Kasian, who had given birth to yet another child just weeks before her murder. In addition Leibel had been charged with the rape of yet another, unidentified woman, on May 20th.
Other details of his past have grabbed headlines in both LA and Canada. Leibel’s father a hugely successful Canadian real estate developer who competed in the 1976 Olympics in a sailing event. His late mother was herself the heir to a plastics fortune, and Leibel had been engaged in various legal battles over her will, seeking to get more than his $18,000 a month allowance. His brother Cody is also a real estate developer in LA, and is rumored to have ties to many celebrities, including Molly’s Game, a poker club that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Blake’s IMDB page lists him as having worked on Spaceballs, an animated spinoff of the Mel Brooks film, and the director of a film called Bald.
As far as the comics connection goes, most of it has been scrubbed from the net already, but Leibel seems to have been one of those Hollywood types who sought to get an “in” by developing a graphic novel. I’m told that he attended the San Diego Comic Con last year, which would have been just before his erratic behavior began. He was a regular at comic-cons, as shown in this photo from the 2008 SDCC, where he was promoting United Free Worlds, a comic published by Devil’s Due.
Despite claims that he wrote Syndrome, the book was only based on Leibel’s concepts. The actual script was by Daniel Quantz and RJ Ryan, with that particularly eerie photo cover by Michael Dahan. Ryan and David Marquez later collaborated on The Joyners in 3D, another graphic novel from Archaia.
With all the weird details, the Leibel murder could become the first case you think of when you hear “comic book murder,” supplanting the Michael George case, in which a comics shop owner was tried and convicted for killing his wife in the back room of the shop they co-owned, and staging it to look like a robbery. There’s also the pre-internet case of Gregory Brooks, who drew a few issues of Crimson Avenger for DC before being convicted of beating his wife to death with a hammer. If you go to that link you’ll see that eventually he got out of jail (!) and some comics folk even tried to help him get back into art, although he was never really heard from again. Make of that what you will.
Going back further, in 1958, Crime Does Not Pay artist Bob Wood was arrested and later convicted of…beating his girlfriend to death in a drunken haze. Are you beginning to sense a pattern here? Wood was convicted of manslaughter and only served three years in jail.
Coming back to our present crime, a 10-page excerpt from Syndrome made the rounds when it came out in 2010 with the logline:
When a rogue neuropathologist makes a startling breakthrough—literally isolating the root of all evil in the recesses of the human brain—he’ll stop at nothing to advance his theory. With the help of a naïve Hollywood actress, a tormented motion picture production designer and a condemned serial killer, Dr. Wolfe Chitel launches a bold experiment in the Nevada desert, the outcome of which could transform humanity forever. “The Truman Show” meets “Se7en” in SYNDROME[…].
And just to join in the ghoulish sideshow, here’s the first 10 pages again:
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.